Super Rugby Aupiki: Black Ferns' World Cup success brings professional rugby closer for top NZ women

New Zealand's top women are enjoying the flow-on benefits of the Black Ferns' Rugby World Cup triumph at Super Rugby Aupiki level.

The women's competition kick off on February 25, with a format that introduces playoffs for the first time, expanding the schedule from six games in last year's inaugural season to 10.

While the increased exposure reflects the popularity of women's rugby, which captured the public imagination during the Ferns' world title defence on home soil, NZ captain Ruahei Demant admits there is plenty of room for more growth.

"If you look at Super Rugby Aupiki and how the competition has developed from last year, there has been an increase in contracts and money, an increase in games and an increase in the length of the competition," she told AM.

"For a lot of the players who work and play in competitions like this, there's a lot more certainty around giving their employers notice, which was something a lot of players struggled with last year.

"A lot of the concerns that players had last year have been remedied in some way by NZ Rugby, so the competition is continuously improving. I'd say there's still a long way to go, but it's definitely a step in the right direction."

Demant did not appear in last year's Super Rugby Aupiki, but the World 15s Player of the Year should lead the Blues bid for a title currently held by Chiefs Manawa.

Ruahei Demant in action for the Black Ferns
Ruahei Demant in action for the Black Ferns. Photo credit: Photosport

Former Black Ferns front-rower Cristo Tofa, 33, will turn out for the Hurricanes Poua, while juggling her day job as a youth worker.

"It just has to be done," she told AM. "My bills have to be paid, I need to help out at home, especially with my 14-year-old son.

"A lot of us just have to get it done. We play rugby because we enjoy the sport, but we need to make the most of these opportunities that we may not get soon, because some of us may be on the way out.

"It's exciting and I'm really, really thankful to be able to play, as well as work and train. The support at home really, really helps - I'm really thankful to my partner and my family."

The competition kicks off with the Chiefs facing the Hurricanes, with the Blues taking on Matatū from the South Island.